By Mark Garbino
The Bruins put together a poor effort Saturday night in Toronto, losing 4-1 to the new-look Leafs. David Pastrnak scored Boston’s lone goal in the defeat, but the B’s were never truly in the game.
Anton Khudobin made his first start of the young season, making 20 saves on 24 shots. It came as a surprise to see Tuukka Rask on the bench at puck drop, leading to speculation about a possible injury. Rask was slow to get up after making a save in the season opener, but there has not been any official word regarding any possible injuries.
A terrible start saw the Bruins fall behind 3-0 in the first 13:13 of the game, with goals coming from Connor Brown, Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk. Brown opened the scoring just 2:14 into the game, when a blocked shot allowed him to chip a loose puck over Khudobin’s glove from in close.
Marner increased the deficit to 2-0 midway through the first, when he challenged Brandon Carlo one-on-one and ripped a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that beat Khudobin far side. Carlo gave Marner too much space, allowing the skilled rookie to show off his shot. Marner terrorized the Bruins defensemen all night, using his speed and stickhandling abilities to give them fits in their own end.
The Bruins fell behind 2-0 for the second straight game to begin the season, a dangerous trend that they can not allow to continue. Getting off to better starts will be a key area to focus on moving forward.
After JvR extended the Leafs’ lead to 3-0, the B’s got an important goal from Pastrnak late in the first, giving the team a sign of life. Brad Marchand fed a pass to John-Michael Liles in the slot, and he found Pasta down low for a wide-open one-timer to get Boston on the board. Narrowing a deficit just before intermission can be a pivotal way to turn a game around, but the Bruins were unable to build on their momentum.
They had a few high-quality scoring chances in the second period, with the best being a point-blank one-timer from Pastrnak, but Frederik Andersen stoned him. Leafs forward Milan Michalek tipped in an early third period goal, officially sealing the game.
Defense: The Bruins are using a young defense corps to begin the season, and it is showing. With Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid out with injuries, more responsibility falls to guys such as Colin Miller and rookies Brandon Carlo and Rob O’Gara. The B’s have looked lost in their own end on multiple occasions through these first two games, with sloppy puck possession and costly turnovers leading to goals against. It has not been all negative, however, with Carlo and O’Gara showing plenty of promise through their first games in the league. They will only continue to develop and improve with experience.
Goaltending: Both Rask and Khudobin have allowed a goal in the first period of their starts that they would probably want back. Thursday in Columbus, Jackets forward Alexander Wennberg entered the Bruins zone one-on-two and fired a wrist shot that Tuukka simply missed glove side. Saturday, Marner’s goal was a stoppable shot for Dobby. Yes, they were both great shots, but they were shots that you would expect your goalie to make. These goals can really change the complexion of the game, especially when they lead to first-period deficits.
Scoring Depth: It’s only been two games, so it’s not time to panic yet, but Boston needs to get scoring from other areas of the lineup than just the first line (looking at you, Krejci line). Through these two games, the top line of Marchand-Backes-Pastrnak has scored all seven of the Bruins goals, and that can not be the case moving forward. The new-look second line of Spooner-Krejci-Heinen has struggled to find much chemistry so far and has only produced seven shots on goal. The lines will be switched around a bit once Patrice Bergeron returns from injury, but they will still need to be able to roll four lines if they want to find success this season.
Leaders: David Backes and Zdeno Chara each dropped the gloves with Leafs Saturday night, with both of them looking to send messages. When Toronto went up 1-0, Backes immediately challenged Nazem Kadri off the ensuing faceoff, looking for a spark to wake the team up. Backes has been a force to be reckoned with in his first games with Boston. He registered three points in his debut, and his physical presence is going to be a difference maker up front this season. Late in the third period, Leafs tough guy Matt Martin threw a hard hit on Torey Krug that Big Z was not a fan of. Chara tracked down Martin and basically forced him to fight, letting him know that this type of hit will not fly under his radar.